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Highlights on Off The Ball

The Republic of Ireland can learn a lot from Spain – David Connolly

The Republic of Ireland U17s have progressed into the quarter-final of the EURO U17, where they w...

The Republic of Ireland can le...

The Republic of Ireland can learn a lot from Spain – David Connolly

The Republic of Ireland U17s have progressed into the quarter-final of the EURO U17, where they will play Spain.

Colin O’Brien’s side have impressed with solid wins over Wales and Hungary but suffered a thrashing at the hands of Poland.

Speaking on Football Saturday, the Irish Independent’s Dan McDonnell began to preview the Republic of Ireland’s match versus Spain in the EURO U17 competition.

“Mason Melia, he's the youngest ever player to play for St. Patrick's Athletic, which is obviously an achievement,” said McDonnell. “But the Spanish team tonight has Lamine Yamal, the youngest ever player to play for Barcelona, who at the age of fifteen played for Barcelona last month.”

“So, I mean, Mason Media, huge achievement to play for Pats at that age. But you're up against Spain, who have a fifteen-year-old playing for Barcelona, and that actually is part of a probably reflective uptrend in football generally that clubs are trying players younger for whatever reason.”

“People remember Wayne Roney come along at sixteen, but a lot of these records now for, like, youngest players are being challenged and Ireland have a very young squad at this tournament. But Spain, for all its 50 million population, they have incredible budgets. They're still chucking out a fifteen-year-old who can play for Barcelona now. So that shows what you're competing against.”

Former Republic of Ireland striker David Connolly then discussed how he thinks the senior and U21 sides should be more interconnected.

“If you look at how Spain have gone about their talent pool of youth and how they use them, how they use them is like the example to the world,” said Connolly. “So a lot of their younger age lads who were coming through, who then played for the 21s, played in the senior side, came U21s and won everything, then stepped back up to the senior side.” 

“Now, with the Republic of Ireland, I don't know whether that would necessarily happen, but it's a kind of cultural thing because just because you've now progressed past that 21. So my point being, I think Spain treats the younger age groups with the utmost respect to get the most out of those players, and then they then use them to come back and enhance those age groups, even if they are beyond that. De Gea came back down, Juan Mata came back down to the younger age groups and they went and won tournaments. 

“Culturally, you want these lads not to think, right, I want to jump to the senior squad, and then I've left them behind or the U21s behind because you want it to be it's an inbuilt kind of culture that you want to go and win things and you want to drop back. You want to help those younger age groups if you can still play for them.” 

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